There is an old saying that people do not leave organizations they leave bosses. I can tell you from experience that has been the case for me. I have only left two organizations in my career where the relationship with my boss was not a factor. I left one organization to get into a completely different field and most recently I left my last organization for a great opportunity to take on an executive role. So I can attest personally that the old saying has validity. Now if that is the case then I also believe that people will follow a boss that they have a great relationship with. Case in point, a few times in the past I have had the honor of hiring someone that worked for me at a previous employer. It has always been a very humbling and rewarding experience to have a person who worked for me in the past come and work for me again. To me that speaks to the trust built. Think about it, would anyone go and work for a boss that they did not like or trust. Would someone quit their job to go to a new company if they did not like you as a leader. I think not.
Relationships to me are so vital. As a leader what else do I have aside from the relationships I build? Sure I might have authority, but authority is not a motivator. Authority can get things done, decisions made, but it cannot bring allegiance. People do not follow authority, they follow the person and if my relationships are weak or nonexistent then my influence is limited. Trust is very important to me as a person and as a leader. Trust comes from investing in the relationship. When it came time to take on a huge project at my current organization I needed to hire someone I could trust. I needed to hire someone who could come in and lead this project with very little oversight. Because of the relationships I had built over the years a person immediately came to my mind. I did not have to guess what she was capable of because I knew. I had spent time talking to her, observing her work ethic and her ability to leverage her own relationships to influence positive outcomes. The only question was had I been the type of leader she would follow? In this case follow 1500 miles away from her home. Had I build enough trust?
As a leader I am always more successful when I can leverage relationships built over the years instead of trolling through my “network”. For me there is a difference between pulling from a network of colleges and leveraging true relationships. Anyone who has worked in a field for years knows people. We all know someone with this skill or that skill even if we are just “linked in”. The true test of a leader to me is how many relationships do I have. When it comes time to build a team or fill a critical need, can I call on people I trust? I am not saying that the right people are always available at just the time we need them, that is not it at all. What I am saying is if I have taken the time to build true relationships with those I lead and serve alongside my chances of securing the best resource in the future are better than someone who does not have these relationships.
So if people leave organizations because of their leader then the reverse should be true that if I invest in the time to build relationships with my current staff then I should see a lower attrition rate. Here are some of the ways I try and build trusting relationships. I am a work in progress so I do not carry any of these out 100%, but I never stop trying to improve.
1. Get out of my office and walk the floors. Sounds logical but how many of us actually do it?
2. Frequent communication. As a leader we can never over communicate.
3. Ask questions; not about work but about the person. Get to know what makes them tick, personal struggles, family.
4. Listen. By listen I don’t mean “fix”.
Photo credit: Mike Munter